Lawyer The landing was unexpected for many of the approximately 50 migrants Martha’s Vineyard They said the brochures given to their clients on Monday were “very misleading” and “used to induce (their) clients to travel under the guise of getting (relocation) support”.
The brochure lists refugee services, including cash and housing assistance, clothing, transportation to job interviews, job training, and other resources such as help enrolling children in school.
A Venezuelan immigrant, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity for fear of negative repercussions in their immigration case, shared images of the brochure. They said immigrants were told they had information about the help they could receive in Massachusetts, but were not told the differences between programs for refugees and asylum seekers.
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Migrants are, in many cases, asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees apply for protection abroad and are admitted through the Refugee Admissions Program, whereas asylum seekers apply in the United States.
The asylum seekers, who local officials believe originated from Venezuela, arrived in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday by plane from Texas under arrangements made by them. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year, said he wants to focus on the border crisis. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — another Republican with a re-election bid — took thousands of immigrants to New York and Washington, DC throughout the summer to highlight his criticism of the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
DeSantis’ move was strongly condemned by the White House, Democratic officials and immigration advocates.
At a Friday news conference, DeSantis said everyone had signed waivers and knew where they were going. “It’s obvious where they’re going,” he said, “and it’s all voluntary.”
The brochure, now posted online by a legal team representing several of the cases, features a photo of what appears to be a road sign that says “Massachusetts Welcome” and a photo of an unexplained lighthouse. It also provides a brief summary in English and Spanish of what resettlement agencies can do for refugees.
The brochure also lists a phone number for the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants, which CNN said is not a document released by their office.
On the front is an image of the state of Massachusetts and a list of social service agencies located in Martha’s Vineyard and at least one on Cape Cod.
The list includes a number for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services — which eventually received the immigrants and helped them find early housing at a church on the island.
Oren Sellstrom, litigation director for Attorneys for Civil Rights Boston, which represents many immigrants, said his clients leave Texas expecting everything in the brochure waiting for them when they land.
Prosecutors are investigating the origin of the brochures, when they were given to immigrants and why.
During an interview with Fox News on Monday night, DeSantis again supported sending the migrants to Massachusetts, saying, “The salesman who was doing this for Florida gave them a packet with a map of Martha’s Vineyard. It had numbers for different services on Martha’s Vineyard, and then it had numbers for all the agencies in Massachusetts that deal with immigration and refugee matters.
It is unclear whether he was referring to the brochure in question.
Two of the migrants previously told CNN that they decided to travel after two women and a man approached them on the streets near a migrant resource center while they were in San Antonio.
Wilmer Villasana, one of the migrants, said he was kept in a hotel for five days before the flights and was well taken care of. The women told him they were from Orlando and worked for private organizations that raised funds to help immigrants, Villazana said.
“The type of program discussed here is not generally going to be available to any immigrant,” Sellstrom explained. “In fact, it was very misleading in the sense that it was used to induce our customers to travel under the guise of this support being available when the program type has very specific eligibility.”
Most of the immigrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have been processed by federal authorities and will go to immigration proceedings, where an immigration judge will decide whether they can stay in the United States. Given their status as asylum seekers, not refugees, they may not be eligible for the benefits listed in the leaflet.
Refugees are eligible for benefits available to them through the central government, including cash assistance and medical assistance. While asylum seekers are generally ineligible for federal funding, once granted asylum, they may receive some assistance.
The migrants continue to receive humanitarian services after Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s office voluntarily took them in and deployed more than 100 National Guardsmen in full force.
Rachel Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, told reporters Thursday that she is speaking with members of the Judiciary about Governor DeSantis sending immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
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